Rebel in the Rye
⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: PG-13 for profanity, sexual situations and graphic wartime violence.
Theater: Lagoon.

 

It’s hard to imagine a film more inaptly named than “Rebel in the Rye.” This biopic of reclusive “The Catcher in the Rye” author J.D. Salinger is anything but rebellious. But that’s far from its only drawback.

Based on Kenneth Slawenski’s 2010 book “J.D. Salinger: A Life,” writer/director Danny Strong’s feature debut embodies the very phoniness that the author — and his signature character, Holden Caulfield — railed against. As Whit Burnett, Salinger’s teacher and, later, editor, Kevin Spacey is given some pretty cornball dialogue. Sitting in a New York cafe, he says, “I couldn’t think of a better place to read the work of the next Fitzgerald or Hemingway than right here in Greenwich Village.”

The film briefly comes to life when Salinger (Nicholas Hoult, “Mad Max: Fury Road”) unsuccessfully attempts to court New York socialite Oona O’Neill (Zoey Deutch, so winning in “Everybody Wants Some!!”). But most people who have read Salinger’s classic novel wouldn’t envision its author approving of a film that includes a book-release montage — scored against a lightly swinging jazz-vocal version of the song “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” — that shows Salinger examining his own reflection in a store window.
Pat Padua, Washington Post

 

Polina
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: Unrated; in subtitled Russian and French.
Theater: Uptown.

 

It might not be obvious to movie audiences that “Polina” is based on a graphic novel: Bastien Vivès’ 2011 tale of a young Russian ballerina. But it’s quickly apparent that there is someone with a great eye behind the camera. Actually, there are two someones: French writer/director Valérie Müller and her co-director (and husband), Angelin Preljocaj, an acclaimed choreographer.

The title character (played as an 8-year-old by Veronika Zhovnytska, and later as a teenager by Anastasia Shevtsova, a former member of the Mariinsky Ballet) shakes her groove thang while walking home from ballet school in the snow. There’s an intensity and authenticity to Polina’s unrehearsed movements, as well as to the work she puts into dance, even when — maybe especially when — her performance lacks polish.

And that is the whole point of this story, which tracks Polina through her acceptance by the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, her decision to instead follow a boyfriend (Niels Schneider) to study in France with a teacher of modern dance (Juliette Binoche, herself a trained dancer) and Polina’s gradual disillusionment — and ultimate re-engagement — with the art.

It’s doubtful whether non-dance fans will appreciate the film to the same degree as the cognoscenti. “Flashdance” it ain’t. It’s a nice little fairy tale about what it means to be more than pretty. If it suffers from anything, it’s that in delivering that message, it is at times almost too pretty for its own good.
Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post

 

Viceroy’s House
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: Unrated by the MPAA.
Theaters: Edina, Oakdale.

 

“Viceroy’s House,” which largely succeeds in its attempt to present a comprehensive yet efficient look at the 1947 partitioning of the British Indian Empire, proves a far more absorbing and thematically rich experience than its history-lesson trappings might imply.

Director and co-writer Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) lends the 70-year-old story a contemporary air. The elegant, lushly mounted film, which involves classism, communal fighting, political machinations and religious and cultural discord, still proves timely given such events as the Syrian refugee crisis, the Brexit controversy and Pakistan’s ongoing anti-terror campaign.

The movie follows England’s last Viceroy of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville of “Downton Abbey”), as he arrives in Delhi, along with wife Edwina (Gillian Anderson) and daughter Pamela (Lily Travers), to oversee Britain’s transfer of power back to the people of India after more than 300 years of rule. But he soon finds that peace may elude the handoff of power because of the eruptions of violence between the nation’s minority Muslim population and its Hindu and Sikh majority.

Although he’s the film’s nominal main character, Bonneville’s Mountbatten tends to get a bit lost in the shuffle. Anderson, in a smaller but perhaps better tailored role, proves more memorable as the committed, egalitarian Edwina. As seen here, she was definitely “the woman behind the man.”
Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times